My current work in progress:

Seaforth designed by Alice Starmore, knit in British Breeds 5-ply Guernsey Wool on US 3 needles.


Mighty Shawls From Little Edgings Grow

Because I’m geeky that way, I looked up the origins of the phrase “mighty oaks from little acorns grow.” The earliest similar phrase I could find was from my old buddy Geoffrey Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde (late 1300s):

“as an ook cometh of a litel spyr”

Did I ever tell you I used to be able to read (and to a certain extent speak) Middle English? And no, it wasn’t during the Middle Ages, it was during graduate school. Which was almost as far back as the Middle Ages.

But I digress.

Behold the little edging:


This is the beginning of a shetland-style rectangular shawl. I am knitting it from Jojoland 2-ply cashmere, which is a laceweight with 400 yards per 50-gram skein.


I love rectangular shawls, but I hate knitting on the edging afterward. Miles and miles of mind-numbing edging — arrrgh!

So I’m employing a mitered-corner technique here.

You start by knitting the bottom left corner — do a provisional cast on and knit the corner using short rows. Then you knit across the bottom border in as many repeats as you need, and do another short row corner for the bottom right. Turn your work, work across those live stitches, pick up stitches along the straight edge of the border repeats you worked, then undo your provisional cast-on and work across those stitches, and Bob’s your uncle!

Here is the etymology of “Bob’s your uncle.”)

Now you are ready to work back and forth across the shawl, working the border along with the body of your shawl. When you get to the top, you do a similar maneuver — work a short row corner, work a border across the top of the body stitches, attaching the border as you work, then work the last corner.

Easy as pie!

Well, not easy as pie to figure out. At least not for me. It took me a bit of winkling to get the corners to work properly.

The shawl is worked in garter stitch and has lace patterning on both right and wrong sides, so that it is continually entertaining to knit. I’m using a US size 3 (3.25mm) needle, so it is a bit slow going. The unblocked gauge is 6 stitches and 8 rows to the inch.

How long will I make it? I have a total of 1600 yards of the yarn, so I’ll either knit until it looks long enough, or til I run out of yarn.

Lucy is no doubt lost in thought — the coming delights of a cashmere kitty blanket!



  1. I just did an Ishbel with the Jojoland cashmere. It’s lovely but be forewarned – it makes a fairly substantial halo (but you knew that). It didn’t really obscure the lace but it was a change from the crisp laceweights I generally use.

    Another thing we have in common – I did the middle English thing in grad school too.

  2. Yummy! I’m hoping you’ll write up this pattern – that long edging is indeed a nightmare.

  3. Oh how lovely, Wendy.

  4. I had a prof in college who only spoke to us in Middle English. While I didn’t mind it, really we were undergrad taking Eng Lit II – he told you in Lit I to learn it while you could bc if you took Lit II that was all you got. And now you know why I didn’t bother taking the couple extra classes to make that English Lit minor a major. Well, that and my class on Southern Literature with the prof who read to us. In monotone. From Faulker. An entire novel.
    .-= Aimee´s last blog ..etsy update =-.

  5. Purty!

    And please be sure to let us know how the yarn works out for you – I used it for a stole, and while I loved the finished product, I had a lot of problems with the yarn drifting apart, and at one point the two plies weren’t…well…plied. I had to remove several feet of the yarn that was simply unusable. I’m willing to bet that, for whatever I reason, I got a bad batch; but if you have any comments on the yarn, I’d be interested to hear.
    .-= Imbrium´s last blog ..Lovely =-.

  6. Lucy is the recipient of more delectable knits than many relatives at holiday season. Lucky cat!
    .-= Barbara-Kay´s last blog ..A birthday present received =-.

  7. NewJerseyLaura says:

    Great idea 🙂

  8. Oh, no, I have a shawl in progress with the mind numbing border to knit. Since I have the main body done, I am going to finish it but will be eager to see how yours turns out!
    .-= Cindy in FL´s last blog ..Perking the Nest =-.

  9. I took a class with Galena Khmelova and what you’re doing sounds pretty close to how she taught us to do Orenburg shawls. I remember thinking at the time that it was a neat way to do shawls. But then math got involved with it and I was traumatized so my memory may be faulty. lol

  10. My Chaucer professor taught the entire class in Middle English – we learned by immersion! She was really fascinating, and it was weird to run into her outside of the classroom. She spoke with a heavy southern drawl, but it didn’t show up in her Middle English! I wish that there was a college near me that taught Old English; I’d love to be able to read some of the old manuscripts.
    .-= Kim´s last blog ..Field of Beans =-.

  11. Better Middle English than Middle French which I read in French lit class in undergrad. Then in grad school I had to transform a word in Latin Vulgate into modern French word by dropping the letters that folks were too lazy to say and by changing letters to other letters that were easier to say.

    The shawl edging is beautiful. It reminds me of tatting.
    .-= southparknitter´s last blog ..On the go =-.

  12. Sounds like it’s probably easy, but I think I’d need pictures to figure out how the edging/shawl thingie is done.

    But cashmere… mmm, cashmere….
    .-= Hissy Stitch´s last blog ..Blue Ribbon Socks! =-.

  13. Is Beowulf Middle or Old English? Because the first day of my freshman rhetoric course, the teaching assistant ready for a half hour from Beowulf, then talked to us in Middle (or maybe Olde) English, before letting us leave. Luckily, she switched to modern English for the next class session!
    .-= janna´s last blog ..Bullets =-.

  14. I love how borders look, but I absolutely hate knitting them. I find them too fiddly and annoying to be worth the hassle just for the look of them. Still, that way of knitting them might be worth experimenting with, since it enables one to skip the tedious attaching process.

  15. Middle English in Gradual School, that takes me back. As an aside, I found out last week that Green Eggs and Ham has been translated into Latin, that rhymes.

    And thanks for the link to the origin of Bob’s Your Uncle. Can you find out why the spectators sing Swing Low Sweet Chariot at rugby games?

    Great edging too, by the way.
    .-= Susan´s last blog ..Puddleduck =-.

  16. Hm. I’m going to have to try this technique on my next rectangular shawl. The “miles of edging ever after” is usually why a shawl will find itself at the bottom of my galloping UFO pile for a year or two!
    .-= CraftyGryphon´s last blog ..Other Crafts: Delusional Knitting! =-.

  17. I’m obviously a tired (brain dead) woman today, because I’m just not visually picturing how you are knitting up the shawl border first. I’ll just look on with amazement and later today or tomorrow I will realize what normally would not be leaving me staring off into la la land.
    .-= Seanna Lea´s last blog ..36 eggs : part 1 (12 eggs) =-.

  18. …or, as I once heard it in an English movie, “There you go – Robert’s your father’s brother!” Beautiful, delicate-looking shawl you’re working on there. I love knowing that you used to read-speak Middle English – thanks for telling us.

  19. That is just brilliant!!! Show rows have always fascinated me, and I always crack up when I hear “Bobs your uncle”

    and shawls in white — just stunning!

  20. I really hope you’ll post the instructions on how you did that. I’m working on the edging that never ends Part deux and I would have loved to do that.

  21. English lit/history double major with Medieval/Renaissance concentration here….Middle English rocks (and was pretty easy for me to get used to–I learned German as a kid and later took a lot of Spanish and a little French in school). I used to read and speak Old English reasonably well. That was one of my favorite classes.

    Chaucer is actually Modern English, not Middle. Yes, it is pronounced somewhat differently from current English, but that’s because of the Great Vowel Shift circa 1400. The definitions of some words have shifted, too, over the past 600 years. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is Middle English. Beowulf is Old English.

    Wendy, I’m about to initiate a friend–an intermediate knitter, but a sock novice who’s only knitted two top-down socks (not a matching pair!)–into the wonders of the toe-up sock. We’ll be using your book as her tutorial. She has size 11 feet, and I sold her on learning toe-up by explaining how it’ll let her use every bit of her yarn and make her socks as tall as possible.

  22. What pattern is this new cashmere shawl? I love the fact that the border is knit at the same time!
    .-= Tonni´s last blog ..Spinning and Knitting =-.

  23. Great design. Lovely color. Thanks for sharing with us.

  24. Elizabeth Howard says:

    And Betty’s your aunt!

    Chaucer’s good–really, really good–, but Beowulf freakin’ rules!

  25. Willa Jean says:

    That’s a construction I haven’t tried yet, and I think I’d really like it. Will you be publishing it? (I have tried designing my own, and I don’t enjoy it. Don’t know why.)

    I read Middle English in a senior seminar in college. It was a TTS class at 7am. And I never missed. I loved that class.

    BTW, I looked up the yarn for the shawl you just finished. FORTY BUCKS FOR 200 YARDS!!!???? Are they effing KIDDING! I am so done with LL yarns. There is expensive, then there’s outrageous, then there’s just plain offensive. I’m disgusted.

  26. I confess I didn’t know there was nylon-only yarn! I love the pattern and the idea…fingers crossed!